Fanatec Forza Motorsport CSR Wheel
For many years now, Xbox 360 sim racers have had to put up with some truly dreadful steering wheel support. The Official Microsoft Force Feedback wheel was discontinued just after the release of Forza Motorsport 3, making the expensive Fanatec wheels the only option on the 360. Now though, thanks to the release of Forza Motorsport 4 there is a whole new world of choice for Xbox owners, including the new Microsoft Wireless Speed Wheel and a Force Feedback Wheel from Mad Catz. The best of the new wheels by far, is the Fanatec Official Forza Motorsport CSR Wheel. If you have a bit of money to play with, this product offers one of the best simulation racing experiences available and is also compatible with the PlayStation 3 and PC.
The CSR Wheel is sold for £249.95, though pedals and other accessories are sold separately. The wheel itself features a terrific racing car inspired design, with an aluminium face, glossy black plastic rim, aluminium paddle shifters and alcantara grips. On the face you will find a D-Pad, Standard Xbox 360 face buttons and some smaller red buttons which look just like the switches from a GT or Touring car. There is also a small LED screen, which allows you to adjust wheel settings on the fly, though it sadly can’t be used as a rev counter or gear indicator. The glossy black plastic can feel a little toy-like compared to the metal parts, but as you’re holding the comfortable alcantara grips when racing, you won’t really notice this issue much. Some of the buttons and the paddle shifters in particular also have a very loud clicking sound which is sometimes a little distracting.
Force Feedback is handled by a powerful Mabuchi RS550 Motor and two additional actuators provide rumble effects. Despite all of this power the wheel is incredibly quiet when in use and the application of force feedback is very smooth and informative through your fingertips. Connection to an Xbox 360 is wireless, but you will need to use the included USB cable to connect to PS3 or PC. However, because of the powerful motors, this wheel is never truly wireless as you need to connect it to a mains outlet to power the force feedback. The incredible force feedback and the heavy base unit also render the included table clamp almost completely useless. The wheel is significantly more stable when screwed down to a bespoke wheel stand or racing seat, through the pre-drilled holes in the base. A better table clamp can be purchased on Fanatec’s website, but it adds an additional £39.95 to the price
The wheel works terrifically well with all racing games, especially Forza Motorsport 4, which it was specifically designed for. Using the LED tuning menu you can save up to five wheel setups for different games. Adjustable options include: Deadzone, Linearity, Spring, Damper and several others. This can seem daunting at first and finding the perfect settings for some games can take a bit of trial and error, but a simple Google search will often provide you with ideal settings for most racing games and Fanatec’s website also has setup suggestions for some games to help you get started.
Although this is an Official Forza Motorsport and Xbox 360 product, the CSR Wheel also supports PlayStation 3 and PC games. It works brilliantly across all platforms and is one of the only multiplatform wheels available, making it a must-have gadget for any simulation fans who like to race across different systems. The different accessories available also make this the most customisable wheel available, from pedals to stick shifters and stands, there is a huge amount of choice. Here are a few examples.
CSR Elite Pedals
These are Fanatec’s mid-range pedals, but at £149.95 are actually better than many of those offered by other sim racing manufacturers. A vibration sensor in the brake pedal shakes to let you know when you are close to locking your tyres and you can adjust the sensitivity of this vibration using the LED settings menu on the wheel. This is fantastic as an extra way to feed even more information back to the driver. There is a pressure sensitive load cell in the brake pedal which can be adjusted to change the stiffness of the brake to more accurately represent a standard or racing car, depending on the user’s preference.
On the PC these pedals can be used with any wheel using the optional USB cable and can even be taken apart to adjust the stiffness of the springs or separated from the base to be mounted in whatever position you choose if you own a racing seat. Fanatec will also be offering an optional Inversion Kit in the near future, to allow hardcore sim racers to position the pedals more like those in a racing car. The CSR Elite Pedals are a phenomenal product that work brilliantly with the CRS Wheel and, if you’re playing on the PC, could even improve many other wheels.
CSR Shifter Set
As well as the great pedals, Fanatec have also released new stick shifterss to complement the CSR Wheel. The CSR Shifters come in a two piece set costing £59.95 featuring a sequential shifter and a separate H-pattern 6-Speed option. The set also comes with all the equipment you will need to easily attach them to the CSR Wheel.
The solid aluminium shifters feel realistic and satisfying, but aren’t actually supported by many games on console. Forza Motorsport 4 and Gran Turismo 5 are the most compatible console games, but the Shifters will work with a variety of hardcore PC simulations. Unfortunately, like the paddles on the wheel, they do have quite a loud click sound which, combined with the glossy plastic base, can make them feel a bit like toys. That said, when using the H-Pattern 6-Speed with the clutch pedal on the CSR Elite Pedals, games can take on a whole new level of realism and intensity.
Fanatec’s new CSR range provides by far the best simulation racing experience on the Xbox 360 and the multiplatform capability makes these products very attractive to any racing fan playing on multiple platforms. Unfortunately the price creates a major barrier to entry. The full set of products reviewed here would cost you £459.85 and Fanatec’s official Wheel Stand would add another £119.95 to the total. It’s a serious investment, but if you take your racing games seriously then the price is well worth it. These are awesome products which set new standards for simulation racing equipment, especially on consoles.